He just does whatever needs to be done and describes himself as a person who can do a lot of different things and if he does them he just wants to do them well and properly.
Shawn Macdonald has a well-known face around the Prince Rupert region. Being born to Dave and Audrey MacDonald, he started life as a little tot in a cannery house. As he grew up in the city his parents purchased a property in Port Edward and he lived in the same house, which his parents still own, for most of his life. He learned the value of hard work from his parents and the self-satisfaction that comes with it.
Shawn has done many things in his life, which haven’t always been easy. He worked as a general labourer for the Bargain Shop for 13 years and has worked for BC Ferries for the past 20 years. He has been a volunteer with the Port Edward Lions, a volunteer with high school kids in Nanaimo, and a volunteer with the Loyal Order of the Moose for more than 15 years. He’s even been to cooking and baking school while living in Nanaimo for two years.
Attending baking school first and then cooking school, Shawn said he decided early it wasn’t for him.
“I thought I was too slow. I couldn’t do 10 things at once,” he said. “You know in your own mind after a while that you can’t do it, and you’re not going to do it.”
Shawn said he loves his job at BC Ferries and he has been dedicated to learning new things, even though some of them have been a struggle.
“The only reason I say that is because I have cerebral palsy, but not a lot of people know that.”
Shawn said this condition has only positively affected his life because he is working at one of the greatest shops in town.
When Shawn was 11 years old, he was also diagnosed with a hole in his heart by a temporary doctor who had come to town. He was sent to Vancouver for treatment and surgery where a second hole was discovered. Shawn describes his treatment at the time as “radical” because it was a new procedure where one hole was closed and the other left partially open to heal itself.
“It turns out it worked because I’m still here,” he said. “But back then it was a radical treatment.”
“I’ve gone through a bunch of stuff in my life. I’ve been a pin cushion. As much as I dislike needles I am used to them now,” he said.
“I don’t know if the experiences have ‘affected’ me in any way, but did they help me grow? Sure they did. I’m at the Moose. As much as I complain about the hours, I like being here.”
Shawn’s parents were dedicated volunteers with the Port Edward Lions and he volunteered with them for 15 years until it disbanded.
“So I’ve volunteered all my life. I was raised in a volunteering family and that’s just the way I am. I never look at the whole ‘You owe me’ aspect. No, no you can’t be that way. If you do what’s the point of being here?
While Shawn first was introduced to the Moose by a friend and jokes that he attended for the $4 beers, he soon found it fun by meeting the members, so became one as well.
“There was a Moose representative here from Alaska doing a visit. I was sitting there joking with him having a beer. I disappeared to the washroom and when I came back he said, ‘Oh by the way you owe me five bucks,” Shawn said he was presented with a membership form and signed on the dotted line to become a member.
“Technically, after your third time here you were supposed to become a member, but we are small a club and can’t do that. We want people to still come here,” he said.
That ideal has paid off in dividends he said, as during COVID-19 membership has increased substantially with the local lodge recently signing up 29 new members.
In 2005, Shawn started volunteering at the Moose. After years in various volunteer roles and being on the board Shawn has been governor of the Prince Rupert lodge for just more than a year.
“Dedication is a huge thing. That’s why I am here. Without dedication what is the point?” he said. While showing some shy modesty by crediting a team of dedicated Moose volunteers and naming each one with the fantastic jobs they do, his own time at the non-profit lodge is more than 30 hours a week assisting with jobs such as receiving the weekly liquor order, bartending, being a DJ and playing the music.
“I do other things too, as simple as buying the toilet paper. Somebody’s got to do it,” he laughed and once again turned the conversation to the dedicated team who have all assisted in continuing to upgrade the interior of the premises during the COVID-19 shutdown.
“You are volunteering for a reason and it is not to get paid,” he said. “I see a lot of heartfelt gratitude when people say ‘thank you, thank you, thank you.”
Shawn said specifically that he finds it personally very hard when people tell him he ‘is’ the Moose. He said “No” he is not and it is very much a team effort and he is a member just like everyone else.
“When I go to work, I go to work and not try to find a way to hide,” he said. “I take the same values when it comes to volunteering.”
Shawn said when he started volunteering at the lodge it was behind the bar and he was up for learning something new.
“Because of the cerebral palsy, my math is not the best. But in my head, I thought it would be a new challenge. I’m getting better at it now,” he said.
The school system pushed him through despite him barely passing, Shawn said. He did graduate but it wasn’t as easy for him as for some other students. When he was a child attending medical appointments he could hear conversations through the doors when the doctors told his parents not to expect him to hold down a job or to be able to drive.
“It really didn’t affect me until I was older. When my parents first asked me to go for my licence I didn’t really want it,” he said. “But of course they did the parenting tricks on me and in the end got it.”
Shawn said he has only ever had two speeding tickets in his life and one was by accident and definitely not his fault.
Shawn was having dinner at his parent’s house when his dad went to work forgetting his phone at home. Shawn was enlisted to assist and deliver the phone to his dad at work. He called his dad, using the hands-free function, to tell him he was almost at the back door of the office and to meet him.
Shawn was so focused on getting the phone to his dad, he didn’t see the flashing lights behind him to start with, so of course, he kept on driving along. Eventually, he spotted the flashers and pulled over. The officers explained to him that he wasn’t really driving the 50 km per hour that he thought he was, but actually 75 km/h, and with him not pulling over immediately they had radioed in to dispatch that they thought they had a runner. Shawn accepted the ticket with no word to the officers of his final destination.
When Shawn eventually arrived at his dad’s workplace he was questioned as to what took so long. It’s a laughing point in the family now, that his dad was the guard at the RCMP detachment and heard everything on the radio in real time.
“People know what you do. It gets around town,” he said. “So, ethics and values are important.”
Shawn says he stays positive and true to those family values and work ethics. He said a friend commented to him once that he got a job because of who he knew.
“That might be true, but I told him it’s up to me to keep the job. He may have got my foot in the door, but I’m the one that’s got to work and kept the job. I’ve been working hard ever since and I keep the job. It’s just the way it is, with work or with volunteering,” he said.
“I’ve done everything else in my life because I just want to do better.”